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Fixing scratches in carbon steel seasoning?

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Alas, my carbon steel pan has been nothing but complications!

I was doing well with it for a while, building up a nonstick surface, but then I seared some meat and had trouble getting off the burned/greasy bits. I generally try to use the water/paper towel or salt/paper towel methods, but that left food residue in the pan (I'm assuming we're not supposed to have food residue left in the pan? That seems unsanitary!). So I scrubbed lightly with a steel wool pad and now have chips in the seasoning. Do I need to re-season completely or is there a way to salvage otherwise?

Thank you!

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  1. < So I scrubbed lightly with a steel wool pad and now have chips in the seasoning>

    Are they chips or scratches? It makes a difference. Are we talking about something like wall paint chipping off the wall?

    <Do I need to re-season completely or is there a way to salvage otherwise?>

    If they are just scratches, then it is a very easy fix and this helps all the time. You will have to re-season it, but not a full blown seasoning, and you definitely do not need to take the original seasoning off. You could (a) wipe a thin layer of cooking oil and then stick it upside down in the oven at 300-400oF for 1 hour like the typical process (I prefer higher temperature seasoning, but many prefer the lower temperature, or (b) pour oil into the pan, heat it over stovetop until the oil starts to show wavy pattern or the oil barely smoking. Turn off the heat. Cool it. Drain the oil.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Thanks for your response!

      I think, unfortunately, that they are chips (e.g. there are several circles where the seasoning is gone, those parts look grey instead of black). rather than just scratches. Time to do a seasoning do-over? And if so, do I first scratch off the rest of the seasoning that still remains on there?

      1. re: Polina809

        < do I first scratch off the rest of the seasoning that still remains on there?>

        Run your finger over the chipped area. Can you feel a height/depth difference between the seasoned and unseasoned area? If you cannot, then you can treat it like scratches. Just season it over stovetop with some hot oil, and you are ready to cook again.

        If there seem to be a noticeable height difference, and if it looks like the rest may start to chip away (like paint peeling and chipping of a wall -- push your fingernail against the edge of the chipped area away and see if the rest starts to flake off), then you may have to remove the original seasoning, and then reseason it. There are many ways to remove the original seasoning. You can chemically remove it by using an oven cleaner and other solvents. You can physically remove it by scratching the surface with a steel wool or a sandpaper (a lot of work though). I think the simplest is using the oven cleaner mode of an oven to burn off the seasoning. Put it in the oven, and turn on the self cleaning mode for about 2 hour or more. You kitchen will smell and possibly smoke, so you will have to open the window. This will burn off most of the seasoning surface, and loosen whatever left. Now, you can start again.